Chic Stops in the Suburbs of La Paz, Bolivia

1 Jul


A dish at Gustu, which opened about a year ago. CreditNicholas Gill for The New York Times

For the first time in a long time, La Paz is having a moment. And the center of the city’s gentrification is now the Zona Sur — made up of four adjoining suburban neighborhoods — which sits 1,000 feet lower and is noticeably warmer than the far more visited colonial city center, a 15-minute taxi ride away. Pushed along by a culinary project from Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma in Copenhagen, the well-heeled area has seen an influx of modern additions that the Andean city has long lacked.


This 40-seat restaurant and cooking school, financed by Claus Meyer’s Melting Pot Foundation, opened about a year ago and is helping nudge the country into a culinary revolution. The co-chefs Kamilla Seidler, from Denmark, and Michelangelo Cestari, from Venezuela, have trained the Bolivian staff to execute 15-course tasting menus using entirely Bolivian products, including high-altitude wines and spirits, equal to the world’s best restaurants.

Calle 10 No. 300, Calacoto; 591-2-211-7491;


With such great local coffee, why do most Bolivians drink instant? Opened two years ago by local coffee growers whose organic Café Takesi beans are sold through Whole Foods, the farm-to-cup java spot sells Bolivian coffees from high-altitude regions. Beans are roasted in the back and brewed in your choice of Chemex, French press or Aeropress.

Gabriel René Moreno E-20, San Miguel; 591-2-214-7234;


Red Monkey. CreditNicholas Gill for The New York Times


If the altitude has your head spinning, you might mistake the dreadlocked and tattooed staff members serving carrot juice, kombucha and green cocktails for a crew in Brooklyn. Let them dose you with their coca leaf elixir to help with your soroche (altitude sickness) and you’ll come to realize that yes, this is indeed a hipster vegan restaurant in a residential neighborhood, not far from the Achumani market. Locavore is the word here, with more than one-third of the ingredients coming from a few feet away in the chef’s garden.

Calle 30D No. 9, Achumani; 591-7-523-4110


Anchored by an eight-story glass atrium, the 65-room Casa Grande has quickly become top digs in La Paz, which is otherwise limited to mostly large international chains in the center. Downstairs, restaurant Yerba Buena, decorated with replicas of Tiwanaku stone statues and stalks of bamboo, brought in a Spanish-trained chef and attracts the lunching ladies from the Zona Sur for smoked trout salads, while the rooftop bar is a neighborhood hot spot, known for its martinis and a well-heeled crowd.

Calle 16 #8009, Calacoto; 591-2-277-4000


Mérida Romero. CreditNicholas Gill for The New York Times


The husband and wife team of Daniela Mérida and José Miguel Romero opened this stark white art space two years ago in the middle of the growing cultural zone within Avenida Montenegro, a ring road of San Miguel, one of the upscale districts making up the Zona Sur. On one side there is a contemporary art gallery, featuring monthlong shows of top Bolivian sculptors and painters. The other is a fashion boutique selling high-end women’s jewelry and clothing from independent local designers.

René Moreno 1223, San Miguel; 591-2-279-8580


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